Why the Ashes?

You may see people on the streets, or maybe co-workers, displaying black smudges on their foreheads today. If you’re wondering what’s going on, if it’s an after effect of too much Mardi Gras partying – by you or by them – well, it’s mostly a Catholic thing. One of the benefits of Catholicism is the aura of mysteriousness it conveys to others. The smudge is actually supposed to be a cross, applied by a priest during mass.

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent, a time of reflection. Ashes are a reminder of humankind’s humble place in the great cosmos: “Remember, you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”

Click here for a primer on Ash Wednesday’s meaning and symbolism.